311 Sqn Air-Crew Training – Bomber Command


The Training of Czechoslovak Operational aircrew for 311 Squadron, whilst part of RAF Bomber Command 1940-42, flying mainly Wellington aircraft (and later as part of Coastal Command from mid 1942 until August 1943).

Flt/Lt ‘Percy’ Pickard DFC

With the arrival of growing numbers of Czechoslovak airmen in Great Britain following the fall of France in the summer of 1940, much thought was given to the formation of Czechoslovak units either as part of the RAF or as a separate grouping. The Czech’ government in exile, given a real choice would have liked to have had a separate Czechoslovak Air Force. However, after much political wrangling it was decided that the Czechoslovak units would be formed as part of the RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR). Provision of suitable numbers of ground personnel was always going to present a problem as was the necessary training to ensure that the units established were able to operate in an integrated manner using RAF aircraft, support equipment, systems, procedures, standards and language. Initially it was considered that there was a pool of ready experience amongst the first aircrew allocated to form the embryo 311 (Czechoslovak) Bomber Squadron and that their training would not need to be extensive. It was thought that they would only need to undertake some brief retraining to familiarise them with RAF equipment and procedures. Serving RAF personnel were drafted in to provide a training cadre and numbers of RAF ground staff were also posted to the new unit to provide technical and administrative support. The British personnel included the following; Wg/Cdr J F Griffiths DFC (Officer Commanding), Flt/Lt M J Earl (Adjutant), Sqn/Ldr L Samuels (‘B’ Flight CO and Flying Instructor), Sqn/Ldr G N Amison (‘B’ Flight Navigation Instructor), Flt/Lt P C Pickard DFC (‘A’ Flight CO and Flying Instructor), Flt/Lt R D B McFadden DFC (‘B’ Flight Flying Instructor), F/O W M Williams DFC (‘A’ Flight Flying Instructor), Flt/Lt A H Browne (Gunnery Instructor/Leader), P/O A Roman (Bombing Instructor), P/O Rogers and P/O W Morrison (both Gunnery Instructors), plus a group of NCO’s under F/Sgt Patrick Hennigan DFM to provide instruction in telegraphy and wireless operation. Later in the year Flt/Lt T G Kirby-Green also arrived to undertake the duties of Flying Instructor as did Flt/Lt T J Baber (RNZAF) to undertake the duties of Gunnery Instructor. Training was initially undertaken at Honington using nearby East Wretham as a satellite airfield.

Pickard (extreme right) & Kirby Green 5th from left

In addition, two initial groups of Czech air-crew were put through a short training and familiarisation course at 11 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at Bassingbourn, in Cambridgeshire. The first group consisting of 40 airmen undertook the course during August and September 1940.

This group consisted of (Pilots); Sgt ČAPKA Josef, Sgt DOSTÁL Hugo, Sgt FENCL František, Sgt HÁJEK Jaroslav, Sgt MUSÁLEK Adolf, Sgt MŽOUREK Alois, Sgt NÝČ Jaroslav, Sgt RADINA František, Sgt RYBA Václav, Sgt ŠŤASTNÝ Karel, Sgt SOUKUP Vilém and Sgt VALOŠEK Oskar, (Navigators); P/O BEČVÁŘ Karel, P/O ČERMÁK Josef, P/O ENGEL Jiří, P/O KULA Jaroslav, P/O MOHR Josef and P/O SEDLÁČEK Mojmír, (Wireless Operator Air-Gunners); P/O ČERNÝ Otakar, P/O DOUBEK Josef, P/O HANČIL Karel, P/O KACÍŘ Ondřej, P/O KOVÁŘ Karel, P/O MATUŠKA Zdeněk, P/O PAROLEK Jan, P/O SIMET Josef, P/O SKUTIL Jaroslav, P/O RYCHNOVSKÝ Karel and P/O VILD Miroslav with (Air-Gunners); P/O HRUŠKA Antonín, P/O FORETNÍK Jaromír, P/O FORMÁNEK Vojtěch, P/O GABRIEL Alois, P/O NĚMEC Herbert, P/O PODSTRÁNECKÝ Josef, P/O ŘÍHA Ladislav, P/O SKOŘEPA Zdeněk, P/O VESELÝ Erazim and P/O ZAPLETAL Milan.

A second group of 21 airmen completed the course in September and October. This group consisted of (Pilots); Sgt DOKTOR Jaroslav, Sgt HELMA Oldřich, Sgt JEDOUNEK Arnošt, P/O HAPALA Richard, Sgt KALENSKÝ Josef, P/O KVAPIL Karel, P/O REJTHAR Stanislav, F/Sgt SCHOŘ Karel, P/O SIXTA František, Sgt STYBLÍK Miroslav and P/O VILDOMEC Karel, (Wireless Operator Air-Gunners); P/O BUŠINA Emil, P/O DIVIŠ Miroslav, P/O KOŠEK Ludvík, P/O KOZÁK Pavel, P/O KOŠULIČ Václav, P/O ROUŠAR Zbyněk, P/O SVÁTEK Lubomír, P/O RŮŽIČKA František, P/O VANĚČEK Václav and P/O ZIMMER Antonín.

Twenty of the second group of Czechoslovak trainees at 11 OTU in September 1940. From left to right; back row P/O Zbyněk ROUŠAR, P/O Emil BUŠINA, P/O Lubomír SVÁTEK, P/O Václav VANĚČEK; middle row P/O Pavel KOZÁK, P/O Richard HAPALA, P/O Václav KOŠULIČ, P/O Miroslav DIVIŠ, P/O Karel KVAPIL, P/O František RŮŽIČKA, P/O Antonín ZIMMER, P/O Ludvík KOŠEK; front row F/Sgt Karel SCHOŘ, Sgt Jaroslav DOKTOR, P/O Frantisek SIXTA, P/O Karel VILDOMEC, P/O Stanislav REJTHAR, Sgt Josef KALENSKÝ, Sgt Oldřich HELMA and Sgt Miroslav STYBLÍK.

The first and only Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron, No. 311 Squadron, was formed at Honington with two Flights at the end of July 1940; ‘A’ Flight was to be the Operational Flight and ‘B’ Flight was to be the Operational Training Flight. By the beginning of September three crews were deemed to be ready to carry out Operations. They made their first foray on behalf of Bomber Command on the night of the 10th of September against the marshalling yards at Brussels. Later in September the Operational element of the squadron (‘A’ Flight) moved to nearby East Wretham, whilst the Operational Training Flight (‘B’ Flight) remained at Honington. At this stage training was undertaken using a mixture of twin-engined Anson trainers (eg K6296, R9600, R9648 and R9649) and early mark Wellington aircraft (eg L4332 KX-T and later K (a dual control aircraft), P9226 KX-Z and P9230 KX-B later X). The first six crews to be trained to the required standard were;

Crew: Personnel:

1
Sqn/Ldr SCHEJBAL Josef, Sgt HANUŠ Čestmir, P/O FIKRLE Jasmín, Sgt MAREŠ Jiří, P/O ŠIMON Eduard and Sgt KOVAŘÍK Bohuslav.

2
Flt/Lt OCELKA Josef, Sgt TAIBER František, P/O HNÁTEK Josef, Sgt KOROTVIČKA Augustin, P/O ÚLEHLA Lubomír and Sgt JANŠTA Karel.

3
P/O Landa, Sgt Hrncir, P/O Jarosek, Sgt Klimt, Sgt Sestak and Sgt Jirsak;

4
P/O TROJÁČEK Karel, Sgt ZÁBRŠ Arnošt, P/O PROCHÁZKA Zdeněk, Sgt KUŇKA Karel, P/O KILIÁN Václav and Sgt KNOTEK František;

5
P/O JANOUŠEK František, Sgt NOVOTNÝ Karel, P/O KONŠTACKÝ Vilém, Sgt PLZÁK Jan, Sgt ZAVADIL Václav and Sgt VALACH Karel.

6
Sgt KORDA Václav, Sgt BALA Jaroslav, P/O CÍGLER Miroslav, Sgt SLÁNSKÝ Vladimír, Sgt JAKŠ Vilém and Sgt ČTVRTLÍK Miroslav.


By mid September they were joined by a further three crews;

Crew: Personnel:

7
Sqn/Ldr VESELÝ Jan, Sgt BUFKA Vilém, P/O SLABÝ Jaroslav, P/O MATOUŠEK Jaroslav, P/O TRUHLÁŘ František and Sgt ALBRECHT Josef.

8
P/O BREITCETL Jindřich, Sgt ZAPLETAL František, P/O KIRCHSTEIN Alois, P/O KOSTOHRYZ Jan, P/O HORÁK Josef and Sgt KOSEK Josef.

9
Flt /Lt ŠNAJDR Josef, Sgt ANDERLE Leo, P/O RICHTER Josef, P/O VEJRAŽKA Miloslav, P/O FÜRBACH Jan and Sgt LANGER Oldřich.

Unfortunately within a few weeks, three crews had been lost and only six full crews were available for operations and the pressure to maintain the operational momentum was deemed to be too great for such a small number of airmen. As a result the squadron was withdrawn from operations for a period of some weeks to give it the opportunity to consolidate and train additional crews.

New crews trained were;

Crew: Personnel:

10
Sgt KŘIVDA Jan, Sgt PAVELKA Josef, P/O NEDVĚD Vladimír, P/O DOUBRAVA Josef, Sgt JANOUŠEK Jiří, and P/O TOUL Jaromír.

11
P/O CIGOŠ František, Sgt URUBA Petr, P/O PARTYK Jaroslav, P/O VALENTA Arnošt, Sgt KOPAL Gustav and P/O KŘÍŽEK Karel;

12
P/O KUBIZŇÁK Antonín, Sgt BAUMRUK Bohuslav, P/O HUDEC Josef, P/O LESKAUER Josef, Sgt BOLFÍK Rudolf and P/O KRÁL Jaromír.

13
Sgt BERNÁT Josef, Sgt ROZUM Alois, P/O VNOUČEK Jindřich, Sgt HAERING Rudolf, Sgt KOVÁČ Ervín and Sgt BENEŠ Jindřich.

14
Sgt BLATNÝ Benedikt, Sgt JEDOUNEK Arnošt, P/O BEČVÁŘ Karel, P/O SMRČEK Leonard, Sgt MIKULÍK Miloslav and Sgt CHMURA František.

15
Sgt ŠEDIVÝ Alois, Sgt ČAPKA Josef, P/O SVÁTEK Lubomír, P/O LIŠKA Jaroslav, Sgt BABÁČEK Pavel and Sgt CUPÁK Vladimír.

The training element was split into two separate sections; an Initial Training Flight and an Advanced Training Flight. To begin with Czechoslovak airmen attended a number of RAF Training Units in order to initially qualify in the various air-crew ‘trades’. The units involved in Great Britain were as follows; (Pilots) No.3 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) – Watchfield/Shellingford, No.28 EFTS Wolverhampton, No.9 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) (Later redesignated No. 9 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit) – Hullavington, No.2 SFTS – Brize Norton, (Navigators) No.1 Elementary Air Observer’s School Eastbourne (later known as No.1 Elementary Air Navigation School – Bridgenorth), No.4 AONS – Ansty, No.5 Air Observer’s School (AOS) – Jurby, No.10 AOS Dumfries (later became No.10 Bombing & Gunnery School (BGS), (Wireless Operators) No.1 Signals School (Later No.1 Radio School) – Cranwell-North. No.2 Radio School – Yatesbury, (Air-Gunners) No.3 Air Gunner’s School (AGS) – Mona, No.7. AGS – Stormy Down, No.8 AGS Evanton, No.4 BGS (Later No.4 Observer’s Advance Flying Unit) – West Freugh, No.10 Bombing and Gunnery School – Dumfries. Others (from January 1942) underwent training in Canada at units such as 31 EFTS – De Winton, Alberta, 32 SFTS – Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and 34 SFTS – Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Once ‘qualified,’ aircrew were posted to the first of the squadron’s two training elements. The embryo crews would be involved in building their expertise through navigational and cross country flights, blind flying, bombing and air gunnery practice. They used Wellington aircraft such as L7841, L7847, N2981, N2775, R1269, R3206 and R3237. In September the operational training element shifted to East Wretham to be collocated with 311 Squadron. Training in these flights was destined to end in December 1941, when a separate unit, No.1429 Czech Operational Training Flight (COTF) was formed on the 16th of the month under the command of Sqn/Ldr Josef ŠEJBL. It was still to be based at East Wretham and was to remain there until well into 1942.The unit continued to be split into two elements, the Initial Training Flight under the command of Flt/Lt Jindřich BREITCETL DFC and the Advanced Training Flight under the command of Flt/Lt Karel VILDOMEC. The first course to be fully completed under the auspice of 1429 Flt was Course Number 6. The ongoing Course Number 5 was already well underway when 1429 Flight was formed and finished on the 2nd of February 1942 it comprised of five crews which were deemed to be of operational standard although there was a shortage of navigators. Those that qualified were; (Pilots) Flt/Lt Josef ŠTRÉGL, Sgt Jan HADRÁVEK, Sgt Oldřich HAVLÍK, Sgt Vladimír HANZL, Sgt Karel KODEŠ, Sgt Jan KOTRCH, Sgt Josef BLÁHA, Sgt Oldřich SOUKUP, Sgt Jan ŠTARK and Sgt Viktor VÝCHA, (Navigator) Sgt František HAVRÁNEK, (Wireless Operators Air-Gunners) P/O Rudolf MATĚJÍČEK, Sgt František JANČA, Sgt Ludvík KRÁL, Sgt Josef TALÁB and Sgt Pavel TOFEL, (Air-Gunners) Sgt Jan ŘEHOŘ, Sgt Václav SPITZ, Sgt Imrich KORMANOVIČ, Sgt Adolf PODIVÍNSKÝ, Sgt Josef ŠTERN, Sgt Jozef HALADA, Sgt Oto JEBÁČEK, Sgt Dobromil ŠPINKA, Sgt Jan ŠIMKO and Sgt Karel MAREČEK.

Succeeding courses were as follows;

Course No.6:
Dates: Crew No: Personnel Comments

16.12.41.
to
09.04.42.
1 Flt/Lt EICHLER Bohuslav
Sgt ŘÍHA Jan
P/O FEDERMANN Hanuš
Sgt DOMINIK Vladimír
Sgt PIZUR Michal
Sgt SAMEL Pavel

16.12.41.
to
09.04.42.
2 Sgt KEPKA Ferdinand
Sgt NERADIL Jan
Sgt LAŠTOVKA Miroslav
Sgt LAICHTER Josef
Sgt GEDOŠ Karel
Sgt BŘEČKA Vladislav
Up to 24.2.42. the rear gunner was Sgt MICHALEC Gustav, but he was injured in an incident involving Wellington (KX-S) L7841 (the aircraft made a belly landing and MICHALEC was thrown from his turret and injured his back) as a result he was back coursed and became part of crew 15 on Course No.9.

16.12.41.
to
09.04.42.
3 Sgt ŠOTOLA Josef
Sgt SAPÁK Jakub
Sgt MOCEK Jaromír
Sgt TRNKA Václav
Sgt KUBÍN Valentýn
Sgt KOKEŠ Zdeněk
Course No.7:

16.12.41.
to
18.04.42.

4 Sgt ČERVINKA Miroslav
Sgt PANCÍŘ Rudolf
Sgt JELÍNEK Jaroslav
Sgt HOLNA Alois
Sgt JANDA Zdeněk
Sgt KŘÍŽ Ladislav

16.12.41.
to
18.04.42.
5 F/O NÝVLT Josef
Sgt PETRÁŠEK Štěpán
Sgt HLAVÁČ Vlastimil
F/O VILD Miroslav
Sgt NĚMEČEK Karel
Sgt KOUKOLÍK Karel
Course No.8:

01.02.42.
to
14.06.42.

6 F/O NEDVĚD Vladimír
Sgt ŠVEC Josef
P/O ZELENÝ Adolf
Sgt STEJSKAL Jan
Sgt FRANĚK Alois
Sgt URBAN Emerich

12.02.42.
to
14.06.42.

7 F/O ŠTUDENT Václav
F/O HORÁK Josef
P/O KADANĚ Václav
Sgt MARTIŠ Anton
Sgt KARAS Zoltán
Sgt RÁJECKI Vladimír
Up to 15.4.42. Sgt J Kopecky (787675) filled the role of second pilot. On the 20.5.42. he was transferred to the Czech AF Depot and on 30.5.42. He was released from the Air Force on medical grounds and transferred to the Czech Army.

12.02.42.
to
14.06.42.

8 Sgt IRVING Jan
Sgt STACH Jan
P/O NĚMEČEK Josef
Sgt ŠVEJDAR František
Sgt NOVÁK Alois
Sgt BÖHM Josef

12.02.42.
to
14.06.42.

9 F/O DOUBRAVA Josef
Sgt DRMELKA Jaromír
P/O ŠTĚPÁN Ladislav
Sgt KAUDERS Valter
Sgt SCHIESLER Oldřich
Sgt SCHÄFFER Ladislav

12.02.42.
to
14.06.42.

10 Sgt KEDA Alois
Sgt VOKURKA Rudolf
ŠTEFEK Jan
Sgt GRIMM Rudolf
Sgt STANOVSKÝ Jan
Sgt HOŘÍNEK Jindřich
All the crew perished when, whilst on a navigation exercise, their Wellington P9299 (KX-A) flew into high ground in bad weather near Llanymawddy north of the River Dovey in Wales on 6.4.42..
Course No.9:

01.04.42.
to
19.09.42.

11 Sgt SOUKUP Vilém
Sgt DOLEŽAL Oldřich
P/O PENK Viktor
Sgt PATZELT Marián
Sgt PUMPR Karel
Sgt KOSEK Josef

01.04.42.
to
19.09.42.

12 Sgt NEDOMA Rudolf
Sgt MOUDRÝ Luděk
F/O ONDRŮJ Vlastimil
Sgt MRÁZEK Emilián
Sgt CHYTRÝ Josef
Sgt HRABAL Bohumil

01.04.42.
to
19.09.42.

13 Flt/Lt LIŠKA Bohumil
Sgt HAVLÍK Jaroslav
P/O KUBÍN Pavel
P/O UVÍZL Alois
Sgt VEVERKA František
Sgt JEDLIČKA Josef

01.04.42.
to
19.09.42.

14 Sgt JÍLEK Václav
Sgt KUHN Josef
F/O POSPÍŠIL Teodor
Sgt BROCHARD Dalibor
Sgt PEGŘIMEK Adolf
Sgt TVRDÝ Bohumil

01.04.42.
to
19.09.42.

15 P/O KOZELKA Zdeněk
Sgt HÉŽA Bohuslav
P/O STŘÍBRNÝ Josef
P/O KNAPP Zdeněk
Sgt DANĚK František
Sgt MICHALEC Gustav

Crew 4 on Course 7 at East Wretham early in 1942 pose in front of Wellington X9608
From left to right; Sgt PANCÍŘ Rudolf, Sgt JANDA Zdeněk, F/Sgt ČERVINKA Miroslav, Sgt HOLNA Alois, Sgt JELÍNEK Jaroslav and Sgt Kříž Ladislav.

On the 24th of February Wellington L7841 with crew 2 on board, was on a training flight, with P/O Joe Capka as instructor to the trainee pilot, Sgt Ferdinand Kepka, when it suffered engine problems whilst overshooting at East Wretham and the starboard wing caught the ground on the airfield boundary. The Wellington made an enforced belly landing on the grass. Whilst most of the crew were able to get clear the rear gunner, Sgt MICHALEC Gustav, was thrown out of his turret and injured his back (See above).

Tragedy was again to strike the unit on the 6th of April 1942 when, whilst on a cross-country-flight, Wellington P9299 flew into high ground in poor visibility, to the north west of Llanymawddy, Merioneth at 1312 hours. The aircraft had earlier experienced radio problems. It crashed at the head of a short dead end valley, close to the River Dovey, killing all the members of crew no.10 (See abovel).

Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris

In early January 1942 Air Marshal Sir Richard Pierse was removed from his post as Commander in Chief of Bomber Command. He was replaced towards the end of February by the redoubtable Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, who would remain at the helm of Bomber Command throughout the war. He was directed during 1942 to commence a policy of area bombing and he fostered the idea of sending out a thousand bombers in a massive raid on a major German city. Both Churchill and Sir Charles Portal, the Chief of the Air Staff supported the idea. Although he struggled to make up the magical figure of 1,000 aircraft, Harris managed to put 1,047 aircraft in the air for the first of the 1,000 raids (Operation Millenium) against Cologne (although something less than 900 aircraft actually bombed the target). Some 602 Wellingtons took part many of them from training units.

On the night of of the first 1,000 raid (30th/31st May 1942) six aircraft of the Czech Squadron’s Operational Flight took off from East Wretham before midnight heading for Cologne (R1240 KX-F (P/O FENCL František, F/O NEDVĚD Vladimír, P/O ZELENÝ Adolf, Sgt STEJSKAL Jan, Sgt FRANĚK Alois and Sgt URBAN Emmrich), R1269 KX-G (P/O ČAPKA Josef DFM, Sgt IRVING Jan, P/O NĚMEČEK Josef, Sgt ŠVEJDAR František, Sgt NOVÁK Alois and Sgt BÖHM Josef), R1771 KX-Y (Sqn/Ldr PROCTOR, F/Sgt HÁJEK Jaroslav, F/O KODÝTEK Stanislav, F/Sgt PROCHÁZKA Zdeněk, Sgt HRABAL Bohumil and F/Sgt KOCMAN Vincenc), R3237 KX-C (Sqn/Ldr BREITCETL Jindřich DFC, P/O BERNÁT Josef DFM, F/O KVAPIL Karel, P/O SLÁNSKÝ Vladimír, Sgt CHYTRÝ Josef and F/Sgt ČTVRTLÍK Miroslav), Z1068 KX-T( P/O ŠEDIVÝ Alois, F/O DOUBRAVA Josef, P/O ŠTĚPÁN Karel, Sgt KAUDERS Valter, Sgt SCHIESLER Josef and Sgt SCHÄFFER Ladislav), Z8854 KX-V (Flt/Lt VILDOMEC Karel, F/O ŠTUDENT Václav, P/O KADANĚ Václav, Sgt MARTIŠ Anton, Sgt KARAS Zoltán and Sgt RÁJECKI Vladimír). All the remaining aircraft bombed the target and returned to base safely.

One of the RAF aircraft that failed to return from ‘Operation Millenium’ was Wellington N2894 of Central Gunnery School (also listed as being on the strength of 56 OTU) with W/O JAMBOR Oldřich as second pilot. It is believed to have been shot down by Oblt Emil Woltersdorf of 111/NJG1 at 0225 hours over Klarenbeek in the Netherlands. In addition to JAMBOR the ‘scratch’ crew consisted of P/O D Johnson, Flt/Lt H Batten, F/Sgt J Connor and F/Sgt J Mclean, who were all killed, plus F/Sgt G Waddington-Allwright who became a prisoner of war. JAMBOR had undergone training as a Sergeant pilot with the OTF of 311 Squadron in May and June of 1941. He is buried at Apeldoorn, Gelderland in the Netherlands.

Following this, on the night of the 1st/2nd June 1942 the unit again provided six aircraft out of a total of 545 Wellingtons – a total of 956 aircraft were despatched for a second I,000 raid on Essen; R1240 KX-F (P/O FENCL František, Sgt Svec, P/O ZELENÝ Adolf, Sgt STEJSKAL Jan, Sgt FRANĚK Alois and Sgt URBAN Emmrich), R1269 KX-G (P/O ČAPKA Josef DFM, Sgt STACH Jan, P/O NĚMEČEK Josef, Sgt ŠVEJDAR František, Sgt NOVÁK Alois and Sgt BÖHM Josef), R1771 KX-Y (F/Sgt HÁJEK Jaroslav, F/O NEDVĚD Vladimír, Flt/Lt NĚMEC Herbert, F/Sgt PROCHÁZKA Zdeněk, Sgt JEDLIČKA Josef and Sgt HRABAL Bohumil), R3237 KX-C (P/O SCHOŘ Karel, F/O ŠTUDENT Václav, F/O KVAPIL Karel, P/O SLÁNSKÝ Vladimír, Sgt PUMPR Karel and Sgt ČTVRTLÍK Miroslav ), Z1068 KX-T (P/O ŠEDIVÝ Alois, Sgt DRMELKA Jaromír, P/O ŠTĚPÁN Karel, Sgt KAUDERS Valter, Sgt SCHIESLER Josef and Sgt SCHÄFFER Ladislav) and Z8854 KX-V (P/O BERNÁT Josef DFM, F/O Horak, P/O KADANĚ Václav, Sgt MARTIŠ Anton, Sgt KARAS Zoltán and Sgt RÁJECKI Vladimír).This latter aircraft was forced to return to base, having experienced engine trouble. The bomb load was jettisoned over the North Sea. The other aircraft reached the target and returned safely

On the morning of June the 12th five aircraft from 1429 Flight assisted aircraft from Honington in the search for a downed bomber crew’s dinghy in the North Sea. Air Vice Marshal Karel JANOUŠEK (The Czech Inspector General) visited the unit on June the 17th.

During 1942 training continued apace and included a range of cross country flights by day and night, bombing practice at the ranges at Berner’s Heath and Lakenheath, air to sea and air to air Gunnery (at Holkam Bay). There was also a lighter side to life with concerts being given by the RAF Regiment, ENSA (‘All for Fun’ and ‘Allied Pot Pourri’) and the Station Dance Band. Films shows such as ‘Moon over Burma’, also took place in the NAAFI.

Wellington R3237 of 1429 Flight

On June the 17th Air Vice Marshal Karel Janousek visited the station, accompanied by other senior officers.

Between the 26th and the 29th of June, 1429 Flight moved its aircraft from East Wretham to Woolfox Lodge in the small county of Rutland. There was a brief intermediate stay at North Luffenham for two days, before taking up residence at the new base. On the 29th a transport convoy under the command of F/O PODSTRÁNECKÝ Josef, also made the journey to Woolfox, where the unit came under the control of 25 OTU. A group of eight others made the journey independently by private car. The first few days on the new station were taken up with the cleaning of offices and living quarters. On the 1st of July the Flight was visited by Wg/Cdr Wyatt and Wg/Cdr Holubil from the Air Ministry to discuss training issues. This was followed by a visit on the 6th of July by Gp/Cpt KUBITA Alois, the Czech Liaison Officer with HQ Bomber Command.

Wg/Cdr Josef OCELKA DFC

On the 25th of July a party of four officers and four NCO’s attended the funeral of Wg/Cdr OCELKA Josef in London. OCELKA was a popular individual and a former commanding Officer of 311 Squadron. His courage and fortitude was legendary and he was known and respected by the Czech airmen in Bomber Command. He had taken command of 311 Squadron in June 1940 and completed a total of 45 sorties with the unit (more than any other Czech pilot). He left in April 1942 to take up a staff post. After many attempts he managed to organise a posting back to flying duties with No.6 MU at Brize Norton. Unfortunately he was killed on the 21st of July 1942, when taking off from Brize Norton whilst flying a Bristol Beaufort (DD938). The aircraft appeared to turn to port and struck a hangar killing him instantly.

During August the unit received the news that it was to move yet again to Church Broughton, Derbyshire, where it would become part of 93 Group. On the 21st the Commanding Officer, Sqn/Ldr Breitcetl and Sqn/Ldr Proctor flew to the new airfield to look it over and make arrangements for the move. On the 26th an advance party of led by F/O Jaroslav with three SNCO’s and 10 airmen left Stamford station bound for Tutbury a large village in Staffordshire close to the new airfield. The following day the CO and Sqn/Ldr Proctor flew to the new station for a conference with the Station Commander. The main rail party (two officers, 17 SNCO’s and 126 airmen) left Stamford on the morning of the 29th and arrived at Tutbury at 1215 hours. The air party left on the 30th with all the aircraft arriving safely. A road party’ left on the 31st, with only a small rear party remaining at Woolfox Lodge. After several days of ‘settling in’ at the new base, normal flying training was resumed on the 3rd of September. The unit was visited the following day by Air Vice Marshal Karel Janousek, Air Commodore Beaumont (OC 93 Group) Gp/Capt Kubita and Wg/Cdr Wyatt (OC RAF Litchfield) for discussions regarding future training etc. The unit was to be designated No.5 Czech Training Flight of 27 OTU.

On the 9th of September, F/O František Fencl was despatched to RAF Duxford for a two day course on Bomber Tactics and on the same day the CO, Sqn/Ldr Jindrich Breitcetl, left for London to attend a monthly conference with the Czech Inspectorate General.

In addition to the operations listed above, the unit also despatched a single aircraft on the 10th of September (DV883 KV-E) with a crew of Sgt Nedoma, Sgt Moudry, F/O Ondruj, Sgt Mrazek, Sgt Kosek and Sgt Chytry, from its new base to carry out an operation to Dusseldorf. A second single aircraft (HF853 KV-A) with a crew of P/O Fencl (Instructor), Sgt Soukup, P/O Penk, Sgt Patzelt, Sgt Pumpr and Sgt Hrabal, was also despatched on the 13th of September for an operation to Bremen. On the 16th the Czech crews under training were examined by Gp/Capt Kubita and Wg/Cdr Naprstek. Four crews were deemed to have completed their training on the 19th and were sent on 10 days leave before joining the squadron. They returned to base by the 1st of October and all were posted to 311 Squadron with the exception of P/O Knapp who was in hospital. The next day the cadets in the Initial Training element of the unit were transferred to RAF Litchfield for ground training.

Flying training continued apace and Course number 10, which was to run from 1.8.42. to 21.11.42. consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

16
Flt/Lt FANTA František, Sgt HRALA Jozef, P/O MUCHA Miroslav, P/O OBŠIL Václav, Sgt TÜRKL Emil and Sgt JELÍNEK Rudolf.

17
Sgt ŽANTA Otto, Sgt FRIEDL Jaroslav, P/O HANUŠ Zdeněk, Sgt LUDIKAR Marcel, Sgt SCHWARZ Theodor and Sgt FONTA Štefan.

18
Sgt KOPAL Karel, Sgt STIESS Jan, P/O SIGMUND Bohumil, Sgt JAKUBEC Milan, Sgt KALINA Pavel and Sgt NAHODIL Karel.

19
Sgt LAZAR Jan, Sgt HALA Jaroslav, P/O DUŠEK Petr, Sgt STROUHAL Alois, Sgt ČERNOHORSKÝ Ladislav and Sgt ŠTÍPA Miroslav.

20
Sgt STYBLÍK Miroslav, P/O DOLEŽAL Jiří, Sgt REICH Erich, Sgt SCHWARZ Ivan and Sgt TARANA Ladislav. (this crew was to complete their training without a second pilot).

Unfortunately disaster was to strike crew 16, when during a night cross-country sortie on the 13th of October, the weather deteriorated (due to ground mist). The aircraft flying were recalled to base. The aircraft of Crew 16 (Wellington Z8854), did not apparently receive the message and it arrived back at base late and attempted to land. The aircraft was seen to circle the airfield with its navigation lights on. It then flew along the flare path and began to turn slowly to port. It failed to come out of the turn and lost height, crashing to the ground and bursting into flames in Watery Lane, Scropton to the north of Litchfield. The crew all perished in the crash. Their funeral was held at Scropton Parish Church on the afternoon of the 16th. Present were representatives of RAF Litchfield and RAF Church Broughton, Czech officers, Wg/Cdr Frantisek Kordula, Sqn/Ldr Lubomir Svatek, Flt/Lt Alois Hochmal and Station Officer Dolores Sperkova, with five officers and five NCOs from 311 Squadron ( together with friends, relatives and local people.

The following day Sqn/Ldr Breitcetl and Flt/Lt Sedivy flew to the base of 311 squadron to be presented with the DFC and DFM respectively.

Course No. 11 which began on 15.9.42. and ran through to 21.12.42. consisted of ;

Crew: Personnel:

21
Sgt HANUŠ Čestmir, Sgt NOVÁK Jaroslav, Sgt ŘEZÁČ Zdeněk, Sgt KŘÍŽ Antonín and Sgt GLIER Zdeněk.

22
Sgt HUŇÁČEK Stanislav, P/O HOLUBÁŘ Vilém, Sgt NAVRÁTIL František, Sgt HNILICA František and Sgt BOGDAN Josef.

(Both these crew were to pass out without a second pilot).

The crew of Sgt HUŇÁČEK on Course 11 pose for the camera.
From left to right; Sgt HNILICA František, Sgt NAVRÁTIL František, Sgt HUŇÁČEK Stanislav, P/O HOLUBÁŘ Vilém and
Sgt BOGDAN Josef.

On the 24th of October a party of six officers and six NCO’s from the unit travelled to Wolverhampton to attend the funeral of Flt/Lt HAŇKA Václav who had died on the 18th of the month in the crash of the 311 Squadron’s Wellington T2564 at Northolt. Despite the tragedies of the month, Czech Independence Day was celebrated on the 28th. A parade was held during the morning, speeches were made and personnel were given the day off.

On the 21st of the month news had been received of yet another move, this time to RAF Thornaby-on-Tees, where the unit would become the Czech Flight of No.6(C) OTU. The unit was to follow its parent squadron and become part of Coastal Command. The advance party, under F/O Jaroslav Mares, left for Thornaby on the 6th of November, arriving in the late afternoon. The main rail party, under the command of Flt/Lt Alois Kirchstein, left by special train on the morning of the 8th of November. This was also on this date that 1429 Flight was officially transferred to Coastal Command. The aircraft moved on the 10th of the month (10 Wellingtons (including DV865, DV883, DV884 and HF853,) and 3 Oxford trainers (DF232, DF237 and DF238) and all had landed safely by 1430 hours, despite poor weather conditions.

Oxford twin-engined trainer

On the 18th of November two aircraft set of on cross-country flights. The weather deteriorated rapidly and the aircraft were recalled. Unfortunately Wellington DV884 ‘X’ with Sgt Hanus at the controls, was unable to return and had to make a forced landing causing slight damage, at Middleton St George.

Just before the end of the year on the 3rd of December Flt/Lt Rusnak a Dental Officer was detached to the unit together with LAC Dostal, bringing with them a mobile dental unit to carry out dental checks on Flight personnel.

Course No. 12 began on 8.12.42. and was due to finish on the 20.2.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

23
Flt/Lt PALICHLEB Emil, Sgt SHAW Geoffrey, Sgt POLÁK Arnošt, Sgt FELKL Josef and Sgt PAŘEZ Josef. (Shaw was a member of the RAFVR, who had studied at the university in Prague, he had previously been undergoing training at 19 OTU at RAF Kinloss).

24
F/Sgt HAERING Rudolf DFM, Sgt SKÁKAL Vlastimil, Sgt KAŠPAR Václav, Sgt JAROŠ Štěpán and Sgt FRANKO Josef.

25
F/Sgt KOŠEK Ludvík, F/O BABŠ Bruno, Sgt RUBÍN Jiří, Sgt HAHN Jindřich and Sgt ŠÍPEK Adam.

(Although Sgt KRÁL František was utilised at times as a second pilot all three crews passed out without a second pilot).

On the 20th of December a group of former Czech Army officers were posted to the unit for navigation ‘B’ training. They included P/O’s František Bouda, Jaromir Francu, Jaromir Grygar, František Koranda, Jindrich Krepel, Jaroslav Motl, Eduard Pavelka, František Politzer, Rudolf Reimann, Josef Simandl, Alois Vavra, Karel Vokoun, Alois Volek, Eduard Zbroj, Vaclav Zdimal and Sgt Hanus Korda. Before the end of 1943 two of the trainees were to die in air crashes; Krepel in the Britain in the crash of Wellington HE496 in April 1943 (see below) and Simandl whilst flying with 111 OTU, Oakes Field Nassau) in the crash of B.25 Mitchell FV952 (the aircraft went into the sea off Bimini).

On the 5th of January 1943 a further group of trainees arrived on the unit; for training as Wireless Operator/Air Gunners were Sgt’s Eduard Blahacek, Karel Posva, Zdenek Fluss, Karel Meisl, Antonin Pecen, Aladair Pokorny, Jan Novosad, Michal Kubina, Josef Novak and for pupil pilot training were F/O KOSTOHRYZ Jan and Sgt’s Stanislav Jelinek, Josef Fisera and Jan Matejka. (Posva was to be killed in the crash of Wellington HE496 in April 1943 – see below).

Course No.13 (Course No.18 for No.6(C) OTU) began on 19.1.43. and was to finish on 5.4.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

26
F/Sgt VELLA Jan, Sgt FIŠERA Josef, P/O REIMANN Rudolf, Sgt FLUSS Zdeněk, Sgt NOVOSAD Jan and Sgt VALNÍČEK Ladislav.

No. 27
Flt/Lt TOBYŠKA Bohuslav, Sgt JELÍNEK Stanislav, P/O VOLEK Alois, Sgt POKORNÝ Aladár, Sgt MEISL Karel and Sgt SKÁCELÍK František. (Initially P/O PAVELKA Eduard flew with this crew as their navigator, but he later became part of crew 30).

28
Flt/Lt KOSTOHRYZ Jan, Sgt MATĚJKA Jan, P/O VÁVRA Alois, Sgt NOVÁK Josef, Sgt PECEN Antonín and Sgt FUKSA Albert.

Course No.14 (Course No.19 for No.6(C) OTU) began on 23.2.43. and was to finish on 31.4.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

29
F/Sgt JELEN Rudolf, Sgt TICHÝ Josef, F/O FILIP Oldřich, Sgt S Sacha, Sgt ŠIMEK Andrej and Sgt AUER Hanuš.

30
Sgt BUREŠ Oldřich, Sgt KUDLÁČEK Jaroslav, P/O PAVELKA Eduard, Sgt KUBINA Michal and Sgt HOFRICHTER Jaroslav.

31
Sgt MARTINOVIČ Leopold, Sgt ŠIMON Karel, P/O KŘEPEL Jindřich, Sgt POŠVA Karel, Sgt DOMANSKÝ Jan and Sgt SCHEJBAL František.

Wellington LP264 of No 6 (C) OTU.

On the 26th of January 1943 Sqn/Ldr STRÁNSKÝ Josef DFC assumed the powers of Commanding Officer from Sqn/Ldr BREITCETL Jindřich DFC, who went on detachment to 311 Squadron prior to posting. STRÁNSKÝ Josef had received his DFC the previous August and unfortunately was destined to be killed in action in June 1944. An attempt during January to pool the training aircraft for training and servicing only survived until almost the end of the month, when it was abandoned. As a result, on the 30th the Czech Flight was allocated three Mk.VIII Wellingtons (LA980, LB149 and HX740) and two Mk.Ic Wellingtons (HX742 and Z1107).

On the 1st of February Sqn/Ldr BREITCETL Jindřich was posted out to 311 Squadron and Sqn/Ldr STRÁNSKÝ Josef formally assumed the duties of Commanding Officer. An unfortunate incident occurred on the 15th of February when a British member of the unit’s personnel was found to have been by shot with a rifle. 1442978 LAC Cresswell, an armourer was found badly injured in the armoury and he later died in hospital. The verdict of the inquest held at Stockton, County Durham on the 19th of the month, was that he had committed suicide.

Late in February came news of a further move, this time to RAF Silloth in Cumbria, where the unit would come under the control of 17 (Training) Group, Coastal Command, although it would still be the Czech Flight of No.6(C) OTU. By the 11th of March the transfer had been completed and training operations continued. In addition to its Wellington training aircraft the unit also operated Lysanders TT’s (eg R9058 & T1470) for towing target drogues during gunnery practice over the range off the coast at Silloth.

Unfortunately crew 31, together with their instructor, F/O DOSTÁL František, were to perish when Wellington HE496 ‘33’ caught fire after an unexplained explosion and spun into the sea in the Solway Firth off Silloth, on the 24th of April 1943. The aircraft had taken off at 1610 hours for a practice bombing sortie over the range some 8 miles from the base. At 1630 hours it plunged into the sea remaining afloat for only a few minutes. (DOSTÁL’s body was washed up near the RAF range at West Preston on the 21st of June).

Course No.15 (Course No.20 for No.6 (C) OTU began on 30.3.43. and was to finish on 24.5.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

32
Sgt ŠIGUT Miroslav, Sgt SZELIGA Emil, P/O JURMAN Adolf, Sgt HORSCHITZ Hanuš, Sgt POLLÁK Felix and Sgt BÍLEK Josef.

33
Sgt PROCHÁZKA Miroslav, Sgt KLESNIL Josef, Sgt FAMFULE František, Sgt DUBA Stanislav, Sgt BENEDIKT František and Sgt ONDRÁČEK Václav.

34
Sgt PODBORSKÝ Miroslav, Sgt RAŠKA František, P/O BOUDA František, Sgt KMEC Ján, Sgt HÁJEK Jaroslav and Sgt BLAHNA Václav.

This latter crew suffered tragedy on the 21st of May 1943 when their Wellington X HE546 ‘29’ flew into the sea whilst on a training flight, three miles east of Ross Island, Cumberland.The aircraft had taken off at 1205 hours with a skeleton crew, Sgt Hajek and Sgt Blahna the gunners were not thought necessary. An initial ‘bombing’ attack was carried out on the moving target vessel from a height of 15 metres. At approximately 1310 hours the aircraft cashed into the sea. Sgt Podborsky and Sgt Kmec were apparently killed on impact. Sgt Raska and P/O Bouda were seriously injured, but were rescued by a tugboat and taken to hospital in Kircudbright. The two missing airmen are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

A group photo of the trainees on course 15 at No.6 (C) OTU

The airmen are named on the photograph, but they are from left to right; back row Sgt ŠIGUT Miroslav, Sgt BENEDIKT František, Sgt DUBA Stanislav, Sgt PROCHÁZKA Miroslav; middle row Sgt KMEC Ján, Sgt RAŠKA František, Sgt BLAHNA Václav, Sgt KLESNIL Josef, Sgt HORSCHITZ Hanuš, Sgt BÍLEK Josef, Sgt PODBORSKÝ Miroslav; front row Sgt HÁJEK Jaroslav, P/O JURMAN Adolf, P/O BOUDA František, Sgt ONDRÁČEK Václav and Sgt SZELIGA Emil.

Course No.16 (Course No.24 for No.6 (C) OTU began on 9.6.43. and was to finish on 18.7.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

35
F/O PROTIVA Rudolf, Sgt BITTNER Josef, F/O VOKOUN Karel, Sgt LAUNER Zdeněk, Sgt BECK Herbert and Sgt REMENÁR Jozef.

36
F/Sgt KUBALÍK Vojtěch, Sgt PROCHÁZKA Robert, F/O ZBROJ Eduard, Sgt ŠTĚPÁNEK Miloslav, Sgt KATZ Karel and Sgt DOUBEK Václav .

From the 26th of May until the 8th of June no training was undertaken by Czech crews at Silloth.

Course No.17 (Course No.26 for No.6 (C) OTU was scheduled to begin on 6.7.43. and to came to an end on 3.8.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

37
F/O KORYTANSKÝ Charles, Sgt LINHART Leo, F/O GRYGAR Jaromír, Sgt HAVRÁNEK František, Sgt HELLER Felix and Sgt NEBESÁČEK Alois. (KORYTANSKÝ later transferred to the USAAF).

This was destined to be the last Czech crew to train on the Wellington. 311 Squadron had begun to re-equip with the B.24 Liberator during May and a decision had been taken to transfer future training to 111 OTU in the Bahamas and trainee crews had begun to arrive there during June 1943.They were to undertake their initial training on B.25 Mitchell aircraft, moving on to the Liberator for the advanced stages. Training of existing squadron personnel on the new aircraft was initially undertaken at Beaulieu in Hampshire, by the RAF personnel of No.1 (C) OTU. The Czech Operational Training Flight in its various forms had done its job well between 1940 and 1942; 22 crews had been trained by 1429 Flight during 1942 and a further 15 crews were trained by the unit (under various labels – Czech Flight No.6 (C) OTU and No.5 Czech Flight No. 27 OTU) up to August 1943. Unfortunately some 21 airmen had been lost due to accidents whilst in training.

John Rennison

June 2016




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Jaromir Broz – Memorial plaque unveiling


On 13 September 2016 a memorial plaque for Jaromír Brož was unveiled at Nová Paka.

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Manston Memorial plaque



A Memorial Plaque is now located in the Memorial Garden at the RAF Manston Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Museum, Manston, Kent.

The Czechoslovak RAF fighter squadrons, 310 Sqn, 312 Sqn and 313 Sqn and also 311 Sqn were stationed here at the end of WW2, prior to their departure back to Czechoslovakia in August 1945.

Following the Communist take-over of Czechoslovakia in February 1948, there were four daring aircraft escapes by former Czechoslovak RAF airmen, whose landed their aircraft at Manston.

Three were early morning flights in 1948, details here,

Daily Mail story about the escape

Daily Mail story about the 18 May 1948 escape.

But the most daring being a daylight escape on 30 September 1950, details here and a first hand account by Eduard Prchal, one of the pilot, here, is bizarrely not mentioned on the plaque.

OK-WAA parked at RAF Manston, October 1950.




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Antonin Dvorak 100th







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Czechoslovak RAF Uniforms





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13. 9. 2016. Nova Paka – Jaromir Broz







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Jindrich Hradec remembrance ceremony 2016


On 27 September 2016 the annual ceremony to remember the RAF airmen from the Jindrich Hradec region was held.

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John Boulton – 310 Sqn


John Eric Boulton was a English career RAF flying instructor who was seconded to the newly formed 310 (Cechoslovak) Squadron in July 1940. His task was to re-train the Czechoslovak pilots to fly British Hurricane fighter aircraft as quickly as possible so that they could fight in the Battle of Britain.

John Eric Boulton was born on the 24th of November, 1919, at Bosham near Chichester, the third child, and only son of Charles and Annie Boulton. He attended a secondary school in Lewes, and then Hastings Grammar School. He left school at sixteen, apparently set on joining the RAF. His older half sister had married a man called Freddie Fox-Barrett who had taken a short-service commission in the RAF, and apparently John very much admired him.

He was, of course, far too young yet for the RAF, so his father’s old colonel in the Sussex Yeomanry, Colonel Powell-Edwards, managed to find him a job in London with the Buick car company, where he could learn something about high performance engines, while waiting to be old enough for the RAF.

Just over a year later, in the autumn of 1937, at the earliest possible age, John was allowed by the RAF to enrol in the de Havilland School of Flying at Hatfield for a course of “ab initio” instruction, being taught to fly using Tiger Moths. He met there several of the people who were to go with him to No.2 Flying Training School at Brize Norton. This school had recently come to Brize Norton from Digby, and John’s course, No.35, was the first to form there.

Hatfield

John was quite easily the youngest member of his course; this and his youthful good looks earning him the nickname of “Boy” Boulton, even, according to one or two, “Pretty Boy” Boulton. The commanding officer of the school, Group Captain Franks L.Robinson, DSO, MC, DFC, ADC, thought highly of John. When he passed with a Special Distinction, the star performer of his course, Robinson wanted him back at Brize Norton as a Flying Instructor.

Course 35

There were at Brize Norton at this time two types of training. You could train for fighters, using the Hawker Hart, a twin-seater, all metal monocoque bi-plane, and its variants, or you could train for multi-engine aircraft using the Airspeed Oxford. John trained on Harts, although he had “air experience” flights in the Oxfords, eventually being qualified to fly them both.

However, first of all he had to obtain some experience on one of the squadrons, so he went to 29 Squadron at Debden for a couple of months, during which time his squadron – and he – took part in the enormous armoured combined exercises of the Mobile Division on Salisbury Plain. He then went to the Central Flying School, which was then at Upavon, to do the Flying Instructors’ Course. When he had completed this he returned to Brize Norton in late December, 1938, as a very junior Flying Instructor. It is worth bearing in mind that he was still only nineteen.

For the next eighteen months his life was taken up with the busy routine of a Service Flying Training School, trying to get as many pilots ready in as short a time as possible for the conflict which was looming ahead. The only intriguing detail about his life at this time is the two occasions on which he was promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant for short periods. I cannot find out from anybody who was there what was the reason for this.

Like many of his colleagues he enjoyed driving, and owned a Wolseley motor car. During off-duty periods they used to drive all over the country round, making expeditions to places like Minster Lovell and Oxford, and rowing on the Thames. There used to be, as one of his friends put it, quite a lot of “drinking and wenching”. There are photographs of an occasion when he and a friend hired a couple of aircraft from the civilian airfield at Witney in order to take up for a joyride two nurses from the nearby hospital.

With the outbreak of war the pace quickened quite considerably. The training course was quickly reduced in length and made much more intensive. John and his colleagues trained many of the pilots who went on to fight in France and in the Battle of Britain. David Bell-Salter, Jack Rose and “Cocky” Dundas are three of the names that come readily to mind. As well as the pace hotting up, there was a change of aircraft. The Harts were pensioned off and in their place came the tremendously noisy North American Harvards. There were problems with these at first, especially with night flying training, because the pilots were not used to gyroscopic instruments and did not give them time to settle down before taking off. Several pupils were killed when they banked straight into the ground off a turn. The problem was finally solved by a Sergeant Instructor called Walter West who worked out what must have been happening.

John’s fitter was a man called Eddie Tumber, who still remembers the occasions when John took him up in the Harvard, quite unofficially, to do air tests. There is a tree planted at Duxford in John’s memory, given by Eddie Tumber.

In June of 1940, after the fall of France people of all different nationalities started arriving in England hoping for a chance to carry on the war against Hitler. Among them was a contingent of Czechoslovakian Airmen. They had had a particularly harrowing time. They had been forbidden to fight when Hitler walked into Czechoslovakia in 1938. They had escaped to Poland with the intention of fighting there, but that country collapsed around them. They then escaped to France, joined the Foreign Legion and waited; but no sooner had they been allowed to join the French Air Force and start fighting than that country collapsed, too. They arrived in England in a rather cynical mood, but still extremely anxious to carry the war to the Germans.

Their arrival coincided with an increase of the pressure on Britain; in particular with the near approach of the great air battle which Dowding had perfectly accurately foreseen would come.

They arrived by various means, some of the first arriving by ship at Falmouth, others by a longer route to Liverpool. They were sent first to Bridgenorth and then to Cosford for the preliminary sorting out. However, for a group of about twenty five officer pilots and about 180 ground crewmen, the process was accelerated and these were sent to Duxford, the home of 19 Squadron. The intention was to form a Czech Fighter Squadron with 100% reserves of pilots. This squadron became 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron. It began to form on July 10th, 1940, with the arrival of the two British Flight Commanders, Jerrard Jefferies and Gordon Sinclair. Soon afterwards, according to the Squadron’s Diary, the Squadron Commander, Douglas Blackwood, arrived.

F/O John Boulton, F/O Jerrard Jefries, F/Lt Gordon Sinclair.

After only a very short time Blackwood requested the presence of a Flying Instructor, who was to bring with him a Miles Master – then the standard trainer for Hurricanes and Spitfires. This Flying Instructor was John Boulton. (It is a strange detail that, according to the Squadron Diary, John arrived before Douglas Blackwood.)

There were two problems that had to be solved. The first was the language problem. Several of the Czechs could speak French, some quite well, but none of them could speak a word of English. A start was made by engaging F/O Ladislav Češek, a Briton of Czech origin, as an interpreter to assist in overcoming the language barrier and employing a Mr Louis de Glehn from Cambridge to come to the airfield once a week to give English lessons to the Czechs.

The second problem was one to do with the aircraft. In France they had been flying Curtiss Fighters, Dewoitines and Morane-Saulniers, none of which had the high performance of the Hurricanes with which 310 Squadron was to be equipped. Also, several of the controls either functioned slightly differently, or else operated in the reverse direction. Two which gave considerable trouble were the throttle lever and the undercarriage selector. It was by no means unknown for pilots who had flown French aircraft to land their nice new English aircraft on their bellies. And one can imagine the chaos that would be caused by a pilot coming into land and “cutting” the throttle only to find his engine immediately going to full power.

Alexander ‘Sasha’ Hess’s recalls this time in his book’Byli jsme v Bitvě o Anglii’.

Alexander ‘Sasha’ Hess

In the meantime we were training on the new machines. First machines were Tutor and Master, F/O Boulton was patient and careful instructor on them, he was learning Czech at the time. We tried to penetrate as soon as possible and thoroughly into the mysteries of the language of Shakespeare: many of us chose as teachers the WAAFs, for us men it was both pleasant and useful. We can give first hand testimony about the diligence and good work of these English women.

There was also a problem, rather lesser, of Czechs who were so mad keen to get at the Germans that they lied about their flying experience. John apparently used to tell of a man who he took up in the dual control Master and then invited to fly the thing. It was only then that the man admitted that he was only an air gunner and had no idea of how to actually pilot an aircraft.

So, there were two jobs to be done, and both needed to be done against the clock. Firstly they had to select the first sixteen pilots who would be sufficiently competent for the squadron to be declared operational. Secondly, having selected them, they had to give them sufficient experience on their new aircraft to enable them both to survive and to shoot down Germans when they started fighting. These jobs were handled jointly by John Boulton, the Squadron Commander and the two Flight Commanders.

We must remember that all these Czech pilots were very experienced pilots and also that most of them had had a great deal of combat experience in France, and some had also fought in Poland. They were also rather older than the average British pilot – their flying training and general military training took much longer. Indeed, the Czech Squadron Commander who double-banked Douglas Blackwood – a man called Alexander Hess, who had fought as an artilleryman in the Austrian army in the First World War, became the oldest pilot to actually fly in action in the Battle of Britain, being forty four years old.

310 Sqn

The squadron was finally declared operational on the 17th of August, and went into action for the first time the next day. John Boulton should have now gone back to Brize Norton to resume his life there as a Flying Instructor. However, he had grown to like his Czech pupils, and they had grown very fond of him. (One thing that especially touched them was that he was taking the trouble to learn their language – as he said “so that they should not think they were the only ones having difficulty with all the learning”).

He applied for permission to accompany the squadron in action. One ought to explain that he was never officially a member of the squadron, being only “attached” to it. However, Douglas Blackwood, after some persuasion was able to get permission for John to fly with the squadron. He flew with them operationally only on seven occasions. Again one needs to remember that, although he was a very experienced pilot indeed, he had had no operational experience before this time. Fairly soon the squadron suffered its first casualty – Jarda Štěrbáček – who had been a particular friend of John’s. This confirmed him in his determination to fight with the squadron. In the huge air battle in the afternoon of September the 7th he shot down a Heinkel 111 onto the Goodwin Sands. This was claimed by a pilot on another squadron – Sergeant Helcke of 504 Squadron – and the claim seems to have been awarded to him, but John was certain that it was his score.

310 Sqn, Duxford 1940.

On September the 9th there was another huge raid against London in the early evening. The Duxford Squadrons were scrambled to intercept them. While approaching the battle, squadrons still used to fly in tight formations of four sections of three, each section flying abreast and the four sections close behind each other. Gordon Sinclair was leading the squadron on this occasion. When they went into action he gave the order to break to starboard and go into line astern. As he did this he noticed the Me 109’s coming down on them from above, and broke in the opposite direction himself. John was flying Hurricane P3888 as port wingman of the first section and simply did not have any room to avoid the collision with Sinclair’s Hurricane P3888.

According to the versions given to me by eight or nine eyewitnesses, some in the air and some on the ground, both aircraft suffered damage to one wing and both then hit a German Me 110c 2N+EP, W. Nr. 3207 from 9/ZG76. One version has it that the whole lot then blew up in the air, but that cannot have happened. The version which most agree on is that the two Hurricanes came drifting down very slowly, rather like sycamore leaves, probably with Sinclair’s aircraft upside down, spiralling round and very close to each other, and each with one wing being bent up at right angles. The Me 110 had its tail section nearly severed and came straight down with both engines at full bore. It came to ground in the garden of “Kennicott” in Woodcote Park Avenue, Wallington. One of the crew, Feld/w Eduard Ostermüncher, got out and opened his parachute, very close to the ground. He was either killed when he hit the ground or else he was murdered by a pair of Canadian soldiers who were seen coming out of the field where his body lay and making remarks to the effect that they had finished him off. His body lay in the field for several days until someone could be found to take responsibility for it. The other German, Gefreiter Werner Zimmermann, died inside the aircraft.

The two Hurricanes were still spiralling down, having collided at about 20,000 feet. Gordon Sinclair had great difficulty in getting out of his aircraft as the wing had apparently jammed the cockpit canopy. It would seem that at some stage his aircraft flipped and he was thrown out. He parachuted down very slowly, taking about thirteen minutes to drift down into Coulsdon High Street at the feet of an Irish Guards Lieutenant with whom he had been at school. His aircraft came to rest upside down on a chicken run by the engine testing shed at the southern end of the smallholding allocated to No-55 Woodmansterne Lane, Wallington. At some stage it had parted company with its engine, which came down more to the north east, nearer the Woodcote Road.

John Boulton’s aircraft, with him clearly visible inside slumped over the controls – either unconscious or dead – came down with smoke issuing from it and landed on top of some pig styes on Mr Bayley’s smallholding at No.53 Woodmansterne Road, Wallington, and exploded into flames. It burned fiercely for about an hour. Several people remember the fire brigade hoses across the road and the home guard shooting all the burned pigs, and also the body being removed from the wreckage. At the time, in accordance with what appears to have been an official British practice of trying to avoid admitting to British pilot casualties, it was given out that the dead man was a Czech airman.

Alexander ‘Sasha’ Hess’s recalls this day in his book’Byli jsme v Bitvě o Anglii’.

9th September, 1940, was a black day for us. Our young instructor F/O Boulton was killed, he had not been with us for long. As soon as we accepted him we lost him. But by the time we’ll learn to understand that every meeting is a beginning of a farewell … . Boulton was assigned to us with a few other British officers when our squadron was established. He was only a youngster, not quite 21, but we could not have had a better instructor. He did not even look his age of 20; at home we would have said a boy prior to his matriculation. But Boulton had experience and exceptional capability and his thousand flying hours spoke for themselves. He soon started to learn Czech. He took any opportunity and devoted to this task a lion’s share of his energy. He did not realise what his sincere endeavour meant to us.

Many of us were beside ourselves with joy when in the two seater training aircraft during the training flight we could hear “Do prava”, “Do leva”, and hear on the intercom the Czech jargon “Netahni tolik” (Don’t pull so much) and “potlaaaac” (push).

When we became operational it was mainly thanks to our golden boy Boulton. He taught us how to handle the British machines, he made us familiar with the peculiarities and new routines of the RAF aircraft mainly with our Hurricanes. We struggled with English so he joined us and started to learn Czech. “So you see, boys, you are not the only ones who are learning.”

The real fighting started and brought us success. We were taking off for defence and offence and returned happy with the satisfaction we could punish the aggressors. Boulton got fed up that in his position as instructor he could not participate directly in the fight. He enjoyed the successes of his pupils, but was nagged by the thought that enemy were getting away who he could have shot down himself. His post as an instructor was not enough for him. He wanted to do more and did everything possible in order to be assigned as an operational pilot in our squadron.

From one bitter fight our little Jarda Sterbacek did not return. Boulton walked silently onto the airfield, looked out and waited. We were very sad because Jarda was our first casualty. The face of young Boulton reflected our loss more than any. His eyes sunk deep in his face, lips were tight, he was grieving silently. I will never forget the expression in his child-blue eyes when he said in Czech “Jarda is missing”.

Soon afterwards he succeeded and became operational. In his first sortie he brought revenge for Jarda. His accurate shooting hit a Heinkel 111 and relieved by this victory his hostility towards the enemy. The Heinkel broke into many pieces. Ever since then Boulton’s eyes lost their youthful blue and took on the colour of steel.

9th September. A day of tough fighting when the sky turned into hell and the aircraft on the horizon turned into a devil’s pack. Boulton took off enthusiastically and passionately into the focus of the fighting. He attacked directly the centre of the enemy formation, unfortunately hitting a Dornier 215 heavy bomber. The whole German crew disappeared in the explosion that followed the collision, but in the flames and smoke disappeared our Boulton, too.

We could not believe that we would never see him. We walked with reverence around the place belonging to him among us. And this place, you young Englishman, we will always keep in our memories.

John was buried in Bandon Hill Cemetery on the 13th of September as an unidentified RAF Pilot; it was not until several days later that his identity discs were found at the site of the crash. One of the dead Germans, Feld/w Eduard Ostermüncher, was also buried at Bandon Hill, but he has since been removed to the German Cemetery at Cannock.

14th December. Once again President Dr Benes came. It was a feast not only for us Czechs but for the British staff of the station who took part in the parade. At this occasion President Benes awarded the Czech War Cross to our British colleagues, Wing Cdr Woodhall, Flt/Lts Sinclair and Jefferies and also in memory of F/O Boulton in the hands of the station commander with a request to give it to Boulton’s mother.

Mr Bayley moved away some years later and started a pig farm at Bookham near Leatherhead, where his son still lives. Mr Jeff Beadle now has No-53, Woodmansterne Lane, and allowed me and Messrs Colin Brown and Colin Pratley to come down the other day to investigate the site – largely to prove which site was which. At the end of Mr Beadle’s greenhouses, where he said the pig styes used to be, we found several exploded .303 cartridges, one or two unmelted solid bullets, three or four lumps of melted aluminium, bits of exploded engine casing, and a brass stopcock of the type fitted to Hurricanes. We have therefore proved two points: first the exact location of John’s crash, second that the aircraft must have burned very fiercely. We still have to confirm, by finding just one piece, the exact place at which Sinclair’s aircraft came down.

Personnel from No.49 Maintenance Unit, based at Faygate near Horsham, inspected the crash sites on the 15th of September. Sinclair’s aircraft, R4084, was cleared away on the 17th of September and John Boulton’s, V7412, on the 22nd of September. It appears that most of the MellO, 3207.2N+EP, is still there underneath the garden of “Kennicott”. The bodies of John Boulton and the two Germans were recovered and buried. Gordon Sinclair retired from the RAF as a Wing Commander in 1957, and died in June 2005.

Another recollection from Alexander ‘Sasha’ Hess’s book’Byli jsme v Bitvě o Anglii’.

14th December. Once again President Dr Benes came. It was a feast not only for us Czechs but for the British staff of the station who took part in the parade. At this occasion President Benes awarded the Czech War Cross to our British colleagues, Wing Cdr Woodhall, Flt/Lts Sinclair and Jefferies and also in memory of F/O Boulton in the hands of the station commander with a request to give it to Boulton’s mother.

In England, he is commemorated, along with the other 2936 Battle of Britain pilots, on the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall at the National Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne, Kent:

He is also commemorated on the London Battle of Britain Memorial and also in the church at Henley in Arden..

Henley in Arden

The esteem that the Czech pilots of 310 Sqn held for John Boulton can be gauged from this extract from ‘Wings in Exile by Bohus Beneš :

AN ENGLISH COMRADE.

Today, alas! we can do no more than remember you. Your twenty-one years were little enough for a Flying Instructor, but your brilliant skill, which we all recognised when you, on our arrival from France, first began to prepare us for flying on British machines, and your thousands of hours of flying experience showed us how well you had been chosen.

We sympathise with your gloom over the fact that you were not permitted to take active part in the systematic destruction of the German Luftwaffe, when they shot down the pupils that you had trained, and we rejoiced with you when the order came that appointed you to the fighting ranks of the First Czechoslovak Fighter Squadron.

We so well remember your every-day “Nazdar-Evzen”, your cheerful smile, clouded over in the moment when you told us, in Czech, “Jarda’s missing”. You had no need to tell us you would avenge him, we knew you too well, and we knew your fighting quality.

We never knew how you went . We came back out of that roaring whirl of aircraft, machine-gun fire, smoke and shell-bursts one by one. We waited for you all that evening – September 9th. And the next day – and the next.

You never came back. We will avenge you, J.Boulton. We remember how you yourself avenged the death of the first of our comrades to fall in Great Britain; we saw you, in your first air battle, shoot to pieces a Heinkel 111 “in payment for Jarda”.

The six Germans that we shot down in the fight in which you fell are the first instalment of the price we shall exact for your young life. You gave it for those same ideals which are graven on our own hearts in letters of burning flame.

THE PILOTS OF THE FIRST CZECHOSLOVAK FIGHER SQUADRON IN GREAT BRITAIN.

© Ben Chamberlain




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Jindrichuv Hradec 27 August 2016







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13 August at the Winged Lion


17:00 13 August 2016.

17:00 13. srpna 2016.

The 71st anniversary of return of the Czechoslovak RAF personnel to their homeland was commemorated at a ceremony by the Winged Lion monument at Klárov, Prague.

Na pražském Klárově u Památníku Okřídleného lva se konal vzpomínkový obřad při příležitosti 71. výročí návratu personálu československé RAF do vlasti.

Attending were Brigadier General and former commander of the Czech Air Force Czech Libor Štefánik, Colonel Petr Hromek, Deputy Commander of the Czech Air Force, Oldřich Lomecký, Mayor of Prague 1 District Authority, CzRAF veteran Col Pavel Vranský, local officials, Czech RAF veterans widows Mrs Fajtolová, Mrs Husmanová, numerous relatives of CzRAF airmen including from the UK, military parachute veterans and well-wishers Honour guard was provided by Scouts, the Sokol group and period re-enactors. Music provided by a kilted bagpipes player.

Obřadu se zúčastnili brigádní generál a bývalý velitel českého letectva Libor Štefánik, zástupce velitele Vzdušných sil Armády ČR plukovník Petr Hromek, starosta Prahy 1 Oldřich Lomecký, veterán plukovník české RAF Pavel Vranský, dále zástupci místní samosprávy, vdovy veteránů české RAF paní Fajtolová a paní Husmanová, řada příbuzných pilotů české RAF, včetně těch z Velké Británie, veteráni-parašutisté a další příznivci a sympatizanti. Čestnou stráž drželi skauti, příslušníci Sokola a členové klubu vojenské historie. O hudební doprovod se postaral dudák v tradičním kiltu.

Jiří Stanislav on behalf of Křížovníci s červeným srdcem. Cyriaci, Nadační fond generála Janouška and Česká mincovna, the events organisers, acted as master of Ceremonies and welcomed all to the event, often in English for the benefit of non-Czech speakers present.

Obřad zahájil Jiří Stanislav, který jménem pořadatelů akce, Křížovníků s červeným srdcem, Cyriaků, Nadačního fondu generála Janouška a České mincovny, všechny přivítal a obřadem poté provázel česky i anglicky, což všichni česky nemluvící účastníci ocenili.

video courtesy of Jan Šinágl

With Dvořák New World symphony played on the bagpipes, wreaths and flower bouquets were then laid on behalf of Křížovníci s červeným srdcem. Cyriaci , Prague 1 District Authority, the Czech Air Force and others with who had a personal connection to the CzRAF.

Za doprovodu Dvořákovy symfonie Z nového světa v dudáckém provedení pak byly položeny věnce a kytice – jménem Křížovníků s červeným srdcem, Cyriaků, zástupců radnice Prahy 1, Vzdušných sil Armády ČR a dalších, kteří byli s českou RAF nějak osobně spjati.

Opening speech was by Oldřich Lomecký who reminded all of the heroism of the Czechoslovak RAF airmen who fought and died during WW2 for the freedom of their homeland, emphasising that this should not be forgotten by the youth of today. Col. Pavel Vranský then gave a speech outlining the achievements of the Czechoslovaks serving in the RAF during WW2.

Úvodní proslov pronesl Oldřich Lomecký. Připomněl v něm hrdinství pilotů české RAF, kteří během druhé světové války bojovali a padli za svobodu své vlasti, a zdůraznil, že dnešní mladí by na jejich zásluhy neměli zapomínat. Plukovník Pavel Vranský se poté rozhovořil o úspěších Čechoslováků během jejich služby v RAF za druhé světové války.

A short speech was made by Jan Adámek. member of the Letecký klub generála Janouška. who then presentation of Cz airmen badge plaques to Oldřich Lomecký and Gen Libor Štefánik.

Krátký proslov pronesl Jan Adámek, člen Leteckého klubu generála Janouška. Oldřich Lomecký a Generál Libor Štefánik od něj poté obdrželi znak českého letectva.

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Brig. Gen Libor Štefánik in his speech highlighted the role of the Czech Air Force in todays world and thanked the British expat community in the Czech Republic for the Winged Lion monument which they donated to Prague 1 in 2014. Until 9 August, Brig. Gen Libor Štefánik had been Commander in Chief of the Czech Air Force, and so he was presented with several mementos as an informal recognition of his recent role before his move to Sweden for his new assignment as Czech Defence Attache.

Brigádní generál Libor Štefánik vyzdvihl ve svém projevu roli českého letectva v dnešním světě a poděkoval komunitě britských exulantů žijících v České republice za Památník Okřídleného lva, který Praze 1 darovali v roce 2014. Až do 9. srpna byl brig. gen. Libor Štefánik hlavním velitelem Vzdušných sil Armády ČR, a dostal proto na památku několik předmětů jako výraz uznání jeho dosavadního působení. Nyní bude ve Švédsku zastávat funkci atašé Obrany ČR.

The event was concluded with a wreath being laid at the nearby memorial plaque for Air Marshall Karel Janoušek.

Akce byla zakončena položením věnce poblíž pamětní desky leteckého maršála Karla Janouška.


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Clearly a lot of work had been done to organise this event, but a great pity that there was no pre-event promotion for this ceremony in the public domain so that more people were aware of it and have the opportunity to attend. Hopefully this will not be repeated for next years event.

Zorganizovat takovouto akci stálo pořadatele jistě mnoho úsilí, proto je velká škoda, že jí nepředcházela žádná propagace ve veřejném prostoru a nevědělo o ní více lidí, kteří by se jí mohli zúčastnit. Doufejme, že v dalších letech se to již nestane.

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Posted in 310 Sqd, 311 Sqd, 312 Sqd, 313 Sqd, 68 Sqd, Ceremony, Events | 2 Comments